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Wikimedia Commons

10 Lost or Forgotten Sports Trophies

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Though it is the fourth most popular sport in the country, hockey has its most storied trophy: The Stanley Cup. And part of that story is the legacy of mistreatment and misplacement the old silver bowl had been subjected to over the years. Despite all this, it’s still around and it’s still revered … which puts it well ahead of these other major league trophies.

1. The O’Brien Trophy (hockey)

Lord Stanley’s Cup didn’t always go automatically to the NHL’s champion. Instead, winners of the league’s play-offs were awarded the O’Brien Trophy (above), which had migrated over from a defunct rival league. The O’Brien was gradually demoted to the point that it was awarded to the runner-up of the championship series. Perhaps deciding that champagne tastes less sweet coming out of a 2nd-place trophy, the O’Brien was retired. The last team to “win” the O’Brien: The 1950 New York Rangers.

2. The Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup (football)

Awarded just once in 1920 by the league that would become the NFL, its whereabouts have been a mystery for decades. No photos exist of the “silver-loving cup,” and the team that won it—the Akron Pros—ceased to exist by 1927. The league’s bylaws stated that any team winning the championship three years in a row was to possess the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Cup permanently, so if you happen across it, it technically belongs to the Green Bay Packers.

As for the trophy’s parent company, they later made a much more prominent name for themselves in a different sport…as Brunswick, the bowling supply company.

3. The Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy (football)

The NFL finally got its act together and began awarding a new, traveling trophy—the Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy—in 1934. Perhaps the only trophy to be named after a referee, it continued to be awarded to the NFL’s champion right up until the league’s merger with the AFL in 1970. This makes the Minnesota Vikings—the 1969 NFL Champions (even though they lost the Super Bowl that year)—the last team to win the Ed. The Vikings would go on to lose more than three additional Super Bowls. They misplaced the Ed Thorp Trophy, as well.

4. The Orbiter Trophy (basketball)

For a league known for multi-color basketballs, dopey team names and enormous afros, the ABA Championship Trophy—a plain silver bowl—was a surprisingly uninspired creation. Not so for the Orbiter Trophy, an odd promotional award from the good folks at Frontier Airlines, given to the winner of the yearly season series between the ABA’s Denver Nuggets and Utah Stars. Festooned with everything from an official ABA ball to a model airplane, the Nuggets won the garish masterpiece of a trophy nine of 11 years. In the league’s last season of play in 1975-76, the Utah Stars folded mid-season, and the Orbiter Trophy disappeared right along with them.

5 and 6. The Chesterfield Trophy and The Gold Cup (roller derby)

In the height of its popularity in the late ‘40s-early ‘50s, Chesterfield cigarettes gave its name to the championship trophy for the International Roller Derby League. While the league endured until 1973, the Chesterfield was phased out when the IRDL lost its national TV contract. This was eventually replaced by the Gold Cup, last won when the New York Chiefs won the trophy in a sold out Madison Square Garden (the same year Raquel Welch played one match for the Kansas City Bombers as a publicity stunt). The league then vanished, and according the Roller Derby Hall of Fame, not even the league’s long-time president has any idea where either trophy is.

7. The Avco World Trophy (hockey)

Avco lent its name—and a $500,000 prize—to the winner of the WHA, a rival league to the NHL in the ‘70s. Avco was an aviation defense contractor, so it’s fitting that the Winnipeg Jets played for the Cup five out of seven years, winning three of them. One version of the trophy remains in Winnipeg … even though that version of the Jets that won the Avco now plays in Arizona.

Like many of these other trophies, the Avco had a notable disappearing act of its own. However, it was during the first season of the WHA that the award failed to materialize, as the Cup wasn’t finished in time to be awarded. Thus, the victorious—and somewhat embarrassed—New England Whalers were forced to skate the ice with their Conference Championship Trophy instead.

8. The XFL Trophy (football)

The league, co-owned by WWE’s Vince McMahon and NBC, proved to be a ratings-challenged laughing stock during its short time in, er, Xistence. Less than one month after the Los Angeles Xtreme won the league’s inaugural championship game—the “Million Dollar Game”—in 2001, the league folded. The trophy (which lacked an equally distinctive moniker) is now a conversation piece in the California home of J.K. McKay, the Xtreme’s GM.

9. The World Bowl Trophy (football)

Not faring all that much better was the WFL of the mid-70s, a rival football league that managed to at least start (if not finish) a second season. The league’s Birmingham Americans won the inaugural—and only—World Bowl Trophy in 1974, after which all of the team’s assets were confiscated by creditors. Among these was assumed to be the World Bowl Trophy, until it was discovered thirty years later, languishing forgotten in a supply room in Birmingham’s Legion Field. It now resides in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham.

10. The Jules Rimet Trophy (soccer)

This silver trophy—first awarded to the winner of FIFA’s World Cup in 1930—was stolen not once but twice in its tumultuous history. First, it went missing while touring England during the 1966 World Cup, only to be unearthed a week later by a plucky Collie named Pickles. However, Pickles was long gone by 1983 when the trophy was later lifted from a display case in Brazil and melted down to be sold as metal bars. Fortunately, a replica was created after the first incident, and it lives today at England’s National Football Museum.

Honorable Mention: The Platypus Trophy (college football)

Starting in 1959, the Platypus has gone to the winner of the yearly match-up between the Oregon (Ducks) and Oregon State (Beavers) football teams. However, for roughly 40 years, this wasn’t the case as The Platypus was repeatedly stolen by both schools, only to go missing and eventually forgotten. It was finally rediscovered in 2005 in a closet at Oregon’s basketball arena, and the wooden trophy resumed being awarded in 2007.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

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18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

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